In this stunning assemblage of words and images, novelist and avid birdwatcher Graeme Gibson has crafted an extraordinary tribute to the venerable relationship between humanity and birds.
Birds have ever been the symbols of humanity’s highest aspirations. As divine messengers, symbols of our yearning for the heavens, or avatars of glorious song and colour, birds have stirred our imaginations from the moment we first looked up into the sky.
Whether as the Christian dove, or the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, or in Plato’s representation of the human soul growing wings and feathers, religion and philosophy have looked to birds as representatives of our best selves — that part of us not bound to the earth.
With the devotion of a birder and hoarder of words, Gibson has spent twenty years collecting the literary and artistic forms our affinity for birds has taken over the centuries. Birds appear again and again in mythology and folk tales and in literature by writers as diverse as Aesop, Shakespeare, Poe, Coleridge, Borges, and Eliot. They’ve been omens, allegories, disguises and guides; they’ve been worshipped, eaten, feared, and loved. Nor does Gibson forget the fascination birds hold for science, as the Galapagos finches did for Darwin. Birds appear charmingly and tellingly in the work of such naturalists as W.H. Hudson, Peter Matthiessen, Farley Mowat, and Barry Lopez.
So intensely and universally are we drawn to birds, it’s small wonder that birdwatching is one of the most popular activities in the English-speaking world.
Gorgeously illustrated and woven from centuries of human response to the delights of the feathered tribes, The Bedside Book of Birds is for everyone who is passionate about birds and all they mean to humanity.
“With the zeal of a convert and the instigated imagination of an ex-novelist, I started taking note of, then collecting, and finally obsessively searching out texts that illustrated something — almost anything — about our human response to birds. This book is the result. It isn’t so much about birds themselves as it is about the richly varied relationships we have established with them during the hundreds of thousands of years that we and they have shared life on earth.”